How to trek to two of the world’s largest known caves
It’s a four-day hike through leech-filled jungle to reach Vietnam’s Hang En and Hang Son Doong caves.
ITALIAN PHYSICIST AND photographer Alessandro Cerè took a break from work at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore to venture into Hang En and Hang Son Doong, two of the top three largest known caves in the world. To get there, a punishing path and 90 percent humidity test even the fittest hiker.
T MINUS ONE WEEK
Essential packing list: The trip poses at least one confounding packing problem: It’s wet and muddy, but nonbreathable waterproof boots can breed foot infections.
- Permeable hiking shoes that dry quickly
- Foot powder to prevent bacterial infection
- A waterproof bag to store essentials during river crossings
- Long pants and long-sleeve shirts to protect from leeches
- Tablets to replace electrolytes lost in sweat
- A tripod to stabilize the camera in low light
T MINUS ZERO DAYS
Ready for launch: The expedition members met in Hanoi for a few days to get to know each other and then took a quick flight to Dong Hoi. Entering the jungle, Cerè switched his phone off, glad to be unreachable. The narrow paths flowed up and down. The group spent four days wading through hip-high waters before traversing through and camping in soaring caves. At the end of Hang Son Doong stood the Great Wall of Vietnam, a 200-foot barrier to be conquered by both ladder and rope climbing.
BY THE NUMBERS
Miles hiked over four days
Feet high inside Hang En
Pounds of photo gear in pack
Source: National Geographic